How to Protect Yourself from Online and Telephone Scams
£1.3 billion was lost to online fraudsters in the UK alone last year . Criminals have been found to commonly impersonate trusted organisations such as the NHS, banks and government departments via phone calls, texts, emails, and fake websites to trick people into sending over their personal or banking information. Investment scams, purchase scams and even romance scams have also been large fraud loss categories, and, every minute, someone in the UK is targeted by an insurance fraudster. Despite this, a YouGov survey found that 95% of people know little, or even nothing about insurance fraud – when a person takes out cover from someone claiming to be a Protection Adviser. Although fraud comes in many forms, we’ve compiled a list of some simple steps you can follow to make you less susceptible, and more vigilant when it comes to spotting a scam.
- Don’t give out personal information to those you don’t know or trust
Your personal details include things like your full name, address, and phone number. Although one detail alone isn’t enough for a criminal to gain access to all your financial information, having several details can help them piece together a puzzle. When someone asks you for any information deemed personal, stop, and consider whether the source is trustworthy or not.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date virus software
It’s important to never click on a link in an unexpected email or text unless you’re positive it’s coming from a reliable source. Clicking on a dodgy link, or opening an attachment, may install malware like viruses or spyware on your device, or a link could direct you to a fraudulent website which may ask you to verify, update or steal your information. For greater protection and security, it’s important to ensure that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and the latest app updates installed on all your devices. Choose strong, unique passwords and enable two-step authentication where possible.
- Be suspicious of cold callers and wary of texts and emails that don’t feel right
Unfortunately, family, friends and trusted organisations aren’t the only ones that reach out to you – scammers do too, and can use emails, texts, phone calls or even websites to trick their victims. This is called phishing. If something feels a bit off, break the contact immediately and consider these tell-tale signs: authority, urgency, emotion, scarcity, and current events.
Is the message or call claiming to be someone authoritative, like your bank, the government, or insurance provider? Has the message or caller threatened you with negative consequences such as fines if you don’t respond within a certain timeframe? How does the message make you feel? Scammers try to evoke feelings of panic to entice you into wanting to know more or to give them additional information. Another thing to consider is scarcity. Are you being offered something in short supply, like money or tickets for an event? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, criminals often exploit current events or specific times of the year, such as tax reporting or NHS track-and-trace, to make their scams feel more convincing and relevant. If you have any doubts or weren’t expecting a call, hang up, and call the organisation via the contact details on their official website.
You shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you’ve been a victim of a fraud – scammers are clever, and it can happen to anyone. If you’ve been scammed or suspect that someone is trying to scam you or someone you know, you should always report the incident. This can help to track down the criminal by providing the relevant authorities with useful information and can prevent others falling victim to the same scam.
To report a suspicious text or mobile call, text 7726 free of charge. If you think you’ve been scammed, you should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2041 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you live in Scotland, reports should be made to Police Scotland via 101. Remember to contact your bank straight away if you’re worried someone may have access to your account.
At Owl Financial, our trusted Advisers will help ensure that you are better financially in the case of unexpected events, e.g., by providing income protection, accident cover, life cover and home insurance. Owl Financial is a part of the Openwork group. The Openwork Partnership is one of the UK’s leading networks of financial advisers. We work with some of the UK’s leading insurances providers - if you have to make a claim, you can feel confident knowing that the cover you paid for is waiting for you and your family provided you are claiming in line with the terms of the policy. You can discover our Advisers based on name or geographical location via our Find an Adviser tool on our website https://www.owlfinancial.co.uk/find-an-adviser/?Distance=10. And, if you’re ever in any doubt that someone isn’t who they say they are, contact us directly via https://www.owlfinancial.co.uk/contact-us/ and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.